“‘Twas the Night Before NBA Christmas”: A celebratory preview poem

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If, for some reason, you’re not so inclined, here’s the source material. We tried to stick to the rhyme scheme, but I’m like “The Jerk” in terms of rhythm.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through “The A,”

I was straining and searching for someting to say;

The Celtics had proven that they were the best,

While Laker fans continued to puff up their chests;

The Heat were all comfy, snuggled in beds;

While visions of delusion danced in their head ;

And I in my mom’s basement listening to rap,

Was wondering what could fill the Christmas eve gap,

When out in Sacramento there arose such a clatter,

But no one did notice for the Kings do not matter.

Still I pondered the league and all of its might,

While wondering if the union would last through the night.

Thabeet it appears could be on the go

And yet of the Grizzlies, still no one would know,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But David Stern bringing such games full or cheer,

With Heat-Lakers, Celts-Magic, and a few teams that are quick,

St. Stern had given us such great games to pick.

Orlando just traded to spark up a flame,

Hoping new blood would bring up their game;

“Now, ‘Renas! now, Hedo! now, JRich and Redick!

On, JWill! on Bass! on, Jameer and Malik!

To the top of the arc! To the top of the key!

But don’t let them foul Dwight, his free throws aren’t free!”

As King James before the transition dunk fly,

When on defense he manages to stick with his guy,

So up top of the rankings the Celtics flew,

With Donkey and Shrek and conductor Shaq too.

And then, in a twinkling, I thought of Roy, so aloof

The fretting and freaking about a bad hoof.

“Surely” I thought, “the Warriors can stick!”,

And then I remembered David Lee tossing bricks.

Then I thought about Kevin Durant and yelled “Woot!”,

As he continues to leave his opponents in soot;

A bundle of joy now that Melo’s back,

But which team does he play for? I’ve kind of lost track .

Amar’e eyes — how they twinkled! His jersey now blue-ish!

A star power forward, and to top it, he’s Jewish!

Phil’s droll little mouth has drawn up like a bow,

Even as fines will be given, you know;

The snarl of a champion Kobe holds in his teeth,

While Pau asks for the ball and we all say “Good grief!”;

Still the Lakers are champs, and long may they reign,

Because sometimes, to be honest, LeBron’s just a pain.

But as Bryant and James on the hardwood do meet,

We’re reminded that this time in the league’s kind of neat;

Lakers and Heat, Celts are Orlando bound,

Nugs-Thunder and one more when you’re unwound;

The Blazers are injured, the Dubs kind of suck,

But when you have a set schedule, then this is your luck.

But to start the day I thought that they chose,

A fine opponent for Chicago, and with it, DRose;

For while Rondo’s awesome and CP3 gets a whistle,

Among point guards as knives, Derrick Rose is a pistol.

And so I laid back, happy tomorrow’s feast,

“Happy Christmas to all, man, Blake Griffin’s a beast.”

All of us at NBCSports.com’s ProBasketballTalk want to wish you and yours a very happy and safe holiday season. Thanks for reading.

LeBron James, do you owe Cleveland anything? “I don’t owe anybody anything”

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It will be the biggest off-court topic of the NBA season: Will LeBron James stay with the Cavaliers after this season?

Right now, LeBron doesn’t know the answer to that question for sure. I’m sure he has ideas, but he wisely leaves all his options open, then can make a call next summer when the time comes.

When that time does come, does he owe his hometown Cleveland anything? LeBron answered that question in the latest issue of GQ, and he answered with an emphatic no.

“LeBron James owes nobody anything. Nobody,” he said. “When my mother told me I don’t owe her anything, from that point in time, I don’t owe anybody anything. But what I will give to the city of Cleveland is passion, commitment, and inspiration. As long as I put that jersey on, that’s what I represent. That’s why I’m there — to inspire that city. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”

That’s not what Cavs fans may want to hear, but it’s also spot on. LeBron has given this franchise everything he has, he has brought them the first title the team has had in 50 years, and nobody sane can question his passion or how hard he plays.

LeBron could well get to his eighth straight NBA Finals, feel he’s on a team that can push the Warriors, then look at his options — the Lakers and a young core that doesn’t defend well, for example — and think maybe he’s best where he’s at. Perhaps he teams up with another star in Los Angeles or somewhere else. If LeBron called up 28 teams and said “I want to come there” those teams would make whatever moves they needed to for the deal to happen. (I say 28 because the Warriors wouldn’t, and even they’d think about it.)

LeBron has the leverage, and he is always a guy who keeps his options open. He will be asked about his future in every road stop, he will dodge the questions, and we’ll try to read the tea leaves, but as of right now LeBron doesn’t know for sure what LeBron will do next summer. Neither do we.

Report: Final season of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract extension just $7 million guaranteed

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Spurs big LaMarcus Aldridge, who will earn $21,461,010 this season, agreed to exercise his $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19 in conjunction with signing a two-year, $50 million contract extension.

As usual, the devil is in the details.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Guaranteeing Aldridge just $7 million in 2020-21, when he’ll be 35, is obviously to San Antonio’s advantage relative to fully guaranteeing his extension. But it sets up an uneasy choice for the Spurs. Their three options for Aldridge will be:

  • Pay him $24 million in 2020-21 to play for them
  • Pay him $7 million in 2020-21 not to play for them
  • Pay him $2,333,333 in each 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 not to play for them

There’s a solid chance that none of those are appealing.

Some speculated San Antonio extended Aldridge to facilitate a trade, removing uncertainty stemming from Aldridge’s player option. Though the Spurs now can’t trade him before the deadline, they could move him in the offseason.

But that 15% trade kicker is a significant inhibitor. His salary is already lofty for his age. An increase would only dissuade teams.

The simplest explanation is probably correct: The Spurs value the stability of their core, no matter how old it is, over flexibility.

Thunder give P.J. Dozier No. 35, Kevin Durant’s old number

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The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.

Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.

Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.

But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.

Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.

In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.

Cornrowed Joel Embiid calls minute limit f—ing BS

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76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.

Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.

Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”

“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”

“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”

“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”

We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.

Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.

Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.

At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.